Mutiny

There have been a number of famous mutinies over the years and even some fictional ones and one wonders when the next one will be.  We have the
Caine Mutiny (movie), the Sepoy Mutiny, the Mutiny on the Bounty, and  The  Mutiny of WWI available for analysis.

You should see the Caine Mutiny if you haven’t already it is a fine movie.  One of
Bogart’s best roles as the neurotic Capt. Queeq; probably by far the best dramatic role by Van Johnson of his long career and Fred McMurray is splendid as the double dealing arrogant snob who nevertheless does sound the bell of truth with his commentary on his fellow shipmates.   It is an intense drama and a moral exploration of the finest and worst in our human nature.  Watch it to learn what will turn men against their leaders in times of crisis.

The Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 has been forgotten by most folks but it was a horrific episode in the history of the Ruling Raj by the British.  That uprising of Muslim troops against the British command and the subsequent slaughter of innocent women and children became the stuff of legend and revealed Britain at its best and worst as a colonial power.   Briefly the Muslim troops became highly excitable over an alleged religious slight involving grease from pigs on their ammo.  There was some underlying resentments to be sure but that small issue loomed large to the fanatics in the Muslim world.  They mutinied over the alleged insult (which indeed was not true, pig grease was not in fact used)  and killed hundreds and threw many into a dark pit like a jail cell.  The conditions were appaling from the crowding and lack of food, water, etc.  They virtually all died.  That was the famous Black Hole of Calcutta.   The British reacted with resolve and over came the rebellion with few troops and that famous stiff upper lip.  

During WWI the French troops mutinied in the spring of 1917 after the second battle of Verdun.  The deaths were outrageous on both sides and the French lost hundreds of thousands during the battle that lasted for several months.   The troops believed that their lives were being wasted by the generals and that they had no regard for their welfare.  Many regiments simply refused to follow orders and would not advance or even stand firm on their lines.  It caused a tremendous panic in the French Army.  It tried to keep the scope of the mutiny secret from the Germans of course for fear they would renew the attack and simply walk right through the lines that had no effective troops defending them.  The French even tried desparately to keep the size of the rebellion hidden from their Allies the English and the Americans.   Petain replaced Foch as commander and slowly order was restored.  Many executions were ordered and some units were reassigned and replacements brought forward as fast as possible.  The French never were a truly effective force after that.  Even when the Allies started winning in 1918 the French were used in a secondary role.   The French troops believed they were being abused and used to no purpose.   To some extent they were right and the French commanders certainly could have done a better job informing the troops what they were fighting for and why the sacrifices were necessary to defeat the Germans.  The troops viewed their own Government with as much hostility as they did the Germans.

Then there is the Mutiny on the Bounty which was a real event and has also been fictionalized several times.   You know the basic story of Bligh being a tyrant and hard task master to his crew but fact is he probably was pretty much in the main stream for  that time and place in his treatment of the men.   They didn’t want to continue under him and his harsh methods and had a leader in Lt. Christian.  Many of them wanted to return to the easy life of the south sea islands where they could lead a life of indulgence rather than the  harsh conditions at sea under Bligh.  After the mutiny and Bligh and some of the crew were put on a small boat they made what is still one of the most remarkable open sea voyages in all of history.  They sailed over 4000 miles in that little boat to Batavia (now Jakarta in Indonesia) and then home to England.   The British when they learned of the mutiny couldn’t have that because it would damaged the prestige and discipline of the British Navy.  It wasn’t cost effective as the analysts would say today but they geared up another expedition and sent it around  the world to Tahiti to bring the mutineers back to justice.  They didn’t catch them all but did bring many back and some were indeed hanged.  Other of the mutineers made it to Pitcairn island where some of the descendants live to this day.

With the results of the election I wonder whether a mutiny would be on the minds of our troops in Iraq?  They have done so nobly and sacrificed so much to this time.  Before yesterday they had a mission, a purpose,  an aim and the hope of victory.  Hope is a powerful human force.   Today what is their mission or aim?   It is clear their sole job now is to retreat.  It is not their decision to make.   But the missions they go on every day, those patrols and excursions into harms way, are very dangerous.  Why should they go out to face that danger today?   They are being told their job now is to come home.  The lives lost until yesterday meant something, something was trying to be accomplished but now any lives lost are truly in vain.  The deaths after the election serve no purpose.   I could understand if the troops told their commanders they didn’t want to go out anymore and that they would  stay in their barracks until the plane was ready to take them home.   We are leaving, so leave and spare anymore deaths.   Their mission was not finished and it never will be now with a new commander in chief dedicated to a strategy of retreat at all cost.    Such a waste and such a shame.   The souls of the lost soldiers will cry out from their graves–“why”?   It is an ignominious retreat and can’t be painted over into anything else.  The troops deserved better than that.  A complete strategic retreat always has very bad consequences and this one will too.

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